HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Leaders from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command participated in the Army Aviation Association of America Cribbins Army Aviation Readiness Conference from Nov. 14-16.
Held in Huntsville, the annual event provided a forum for aviation leaders in industry and academia to speak directly with aviation military leaders. This year’s event featured input from AMCOM Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Tom O’Connor, Jr., Director of the AMCOM Logistics Center, Brian Wood, and AMCOM Deputy to the Commanding General, Don Nitti.
Wood participated in the “Transforming the Organic Industrial Base” panel discussion held Nov. 15, moderated by former AMCOM Commander Jim Myles. The panel also included the Commander of Corpus Christi Army Depot, Col. Kyle Hogan, as well as representatives from AMCOM’s partners in academia.
Wood discussed the 15-year OIB modernization strategy initiated by the commanding general of Army Materiel Command, Gen. Edward Daly. The goal of the $16 billion effort is to modernize the 23 depots, arsenals and ammunition plants across the Army to bring them into the 21st century. He said part of that strategy includes renovating existing depot facilities, in addition to constructing new, multi-functional facilities.
“The new facilities will build agility into the organic industrial base,” Wood said. “Those buildings can be reconfigured to handle specific workloads at each depot.”
He added that transforming the OIB is more than just upgrading facilities; the overall transformation of the organic industrial base is nested with the top three Army senior leader priorities: people, readiness and modernization.
“OIB modernization is more than just infrastructure,” Wood said. “It has many different tenants. It is about the workforce — the skill sets that are needed now and the capabilities that will be needed from the workforce of the future. It’s also important that we collaborate with industry and academia, and with our program executive office partners.”
Wood went on to discuss supply chain resiliency — a topic brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said AMCOM Logistics Center is transforming the way the Army does supply chain management and he expects the center to implement the first phase early next year.
“All of this is coupled around the second priority of Army senior leaders, building readiness. Ensuring that, through a commercial supply chain, the organic industrial base can enable Army readiness by providing the parts needed globally at the point of need.”
O’Connor also spoke about supply chain readiness during his briefing Nov. 16, comparing the issues Soldiers face today to those of World War II.
“In 1942, German U-boats sank 6.2 million tons of supplies that were intended to support the frontline Soldiers,” he said. “Could you imagine if that was Patriot missiles or Hellfire missiles or parts for our unmanned systems — could we still maintain readiness with 6 million tons of supplies lost?”
O’Connor acknowledged to his audience of predominately industry partners that the supply chain solution would not be easy, and it would involve risk, because on the modern-day battlefield, stockpiling supplies will not work. However, he also acknowledged that the reward will be worth the risk.
“When you have a delay in schedule or you have a vendor that is no longer able to provide you with a material or a manufactured solution, you have the ability to reach into the organic industrial base with confidence that it will deliver quality and quantity on schedule as an alternate source of supply,” he said. “I know this might conflict with the bottom line and I know how much pressure there is for industry to look at quarterly earnings, and return on investments, and minimizing risk in the portfolio, but I'll tell you, we're at a time where we need to take risks. So, let's figure out where we can take some risks, because we owe it to the Soldiers who are going to come after us.”
Predictive analysis and predictive logistics were some of the solutions O’Connor discussed before turning the conversation toward the future of logistics and supply-chain readiness, advanced manufacturing. He acknowledged that while policies and governance standards are currently being developed, the next steps are more difficult — qualifying parts, designs and printers for airworthiness.
During the afternoon panel on sustainment modernization, Nitti expanded the discussion about OIB modernization with an emphasis on technology and advanced manufacturing.
“Advanced manufacturing absolutely has the ability to revolutionize sustainment,” he said. “We are investing significant time and resources into it with a heavy emphasis on policy right now … but ultimately, we know that the capability has to be pushed as far forward as technically possible, or we will never harness the true capability that the Soldier needs.”
Joining Nitti on the sustainment modernization panel were representatives from academia and industry and Andrea Benson, the advanced manufacturing lead for AMCOM. Benson discussed challenges, such as material-allowable qualification and standardization, as well as creating and defining new advanced manufacturing occupational specialties for the service branches.
Despite the challenges, Benson noted she is seeing progress in collaboration — within industry, academia and the service branches.
“We are seeing more collaboration across the services,” she said. “We have a program that we are funding through an industry partner, and they are helping us qualify material allowables, which is shared across the Department of Defense. All of it is shared data and we are starting to see more in academia as well, so we are making progress in that area.”
The panel also discussed securing that shared data, because while ensuring the information is shareable and available, of equal importance is ensuring it stays away from America’s adversaries. Nitti said balancing risk is key.
“File control is a big part of what we are working through,” he said. “We know we have to get there, but if we are completely risk-averse, we end up with a great capability that nobody can use.”